Constituted: 27 December 1813

Jurisdiction: England

Location: London, England


Grand Master
HRH The Duke of Kent, KG, GCMG, GCVO, ADC – present
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) is the governing body of Freemasonry in England, Wales and the Channel Islands. Its headquarters are at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ.


UGLE meets in Quarterly Communication on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The Annual Investiture, which is followed by the Grand Festival, is held on the last Wednesday in April.


The United Grand Lodge of England currently has over a quarter of a million members meeting in over 8,000 Lodges, which are grouped as follows:

Lodges meeting in London (an area generally within a 10-mile radius of Freemasons’ Hall), are administered by the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London, which is headed by the Metropolitan Grand Master.
Lodges meeting outside London, and within England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, are grouped into 47 Provinces, whose boundaries often correspond to those of the old Counties, with each headed by a Provincial Grand Master.
Lodges that meet outside England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are grouped into 33 Districts, with each headed by a District Grand Master, five Groups (ie: currently too small to make up a District), with each headed by a Grand Inspector, and 12 Lodges abroad which are directly administered by Freemasons’ Hall.
The Book of Constitutions (rule book) has been in the public domain since the first edition was published in 1723 and can also be purchased from Freemasons’ Hall.

Prior to 1717 there is evidence of Freemasons' lodges in both England and Scotland, with the earliest being in Scotland. On 24 June 1717, three existing London lodges and a Westminster lodge held a joint dinner at the Goose and Gridiron alehouse in St. Paul's Churchyard, elected Anthony Sayer to the chair as Grand Master, and called themselves the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster. The City of London Corporation has erected a Blue Plaque near the location. Little is known of Sayer save that he was described as a Gentleman (a man of independent means) when he became Grand Master, but later fell on hard times, receiving money from the Grand Lodge charity fund.

In 1718 Sayer was succeeded by George Payne, a successful Civil Servant. The society then passed into the care of John Theophilus Desaguliers, a scientist and clergyman, then back to Payne. In 1721, the Grand Lodge managed to obtain a nobleman, the Duke of Montagu to preside as Grand Master, and so was able to establish itself as an authoritative regulatory body, and began meeting on a quarterly basis. This resulted in lodges outside of London becoming affiliated, accepting sequentially numbered warrants conferring seniority over later applicants.

In 1723, by authority of the Grand Lodge, James Anderson published the Constitutions of Masonry for the purposes of regulating the craft and establishing the Grand Lodge's authority to warrant Lodges to meet. The book includes a fanciful history of the Craft, which nevertheless contains much interesting material.

The creation of Lodges followed the development of the Empire, with all three home Grand Lodges warranting Lodges around the world, including the Americas, India and Africa, from the 1730s. Thomas Thynne, 2nd Viscount Weymouth, was Grand Master in 1735–36.

Throughout the early years of the new Grand Lodge there were any number of Masons and lodges that never affiliated with the new Grand Lodge. These unaffiliated Masons and their Lodges were referred to as "Old Masons", or "St. John Masons", and "St. John Lodges".

During the 1730s and 1740s antipathy increased between the London Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland. Irish and Scots Masons visiting and living in London considered the London Grand Lodge to have deviated substantially from the ancient practices of the Craft. As a result, these Masons felt a stronger kinship with the unaffiliated London Lodges. The aristocratic nature of the London Grand Lodge and its members alienated other Masons causing them also to identify with the unaffiliated Lodges.

On 17 July 1751, representatives of five Lodges gathered at the Turk's Head Tavern, in Greek Street, Soho, London and formed a rival Grand Lodge – "The Grand Lodge of England According to the Old Institutions". They considered that they practiced a more ancient and therefore purer form of Masonry, and called their Grand Lodge The Ancients' Grand Lodge. They called those affiliated to the Premier Grand Lodge, by the pejorative epithet The Moderns. These two unofficial names stuck.

An illustration of how deep the division between the two factions became over the next fifty years is the case of Benjamin Franklin, who was a member of a Moderns' Lodge in Philadelphia. Upon returning from France, it transpired that his Lodge had changed to (and had received a new warrant from) the Ancients Grand Lodge; no longer recognizing him and declining to give him Masonic Honours at his funeral.

In 1809 the Moderns appointed a "Lodge of Promulgation" to return their own ritual to regularity with Scotland, Ireland and especially the Ancients. In 1811 both Grand Lodges appointed Commissioners and over the next two years, articles of Union were negotiated and agreed. In January 1813 the Duke of Sussex became Grand Master of the Moderns on the resignation of his brother, the Prince Regent, and in December of that year another brother, Duke of Kent became Grand Master of the Antients. On 27 December 1813 the United Grand Lodge of England ("UGLE") was constituted at Freemasons' Hall, London with HRH the Duke of Sussex (younger son of King George III) as Grand Master. A Lodge of Reconciliation was formed to reconcile the rituals worked under the two former Grand Lodges.

UGLE adopted the ritual demonstrated by the Lodge of Reconciliation although, in accordance with the contemporary understanding of the Masonic obligations, it was not minuted or officially recorded. Some linking passages can be regarded as merely ancillary and insignificant, and there are numerous possible interpretations, gestures and floor work, so there are now many published variants and rubrics. UGLE has always declined to make any general rulings in matters of ritual, although it has authorized and mandated specific changes to reflect developments in society as a whole.

Credit: Wikipedia